Perfectly Paired

Do you enjoy visiting historic sites? Covered bridges? Grist mills?

Missouri has just the deal for you. Along the Whitewater River in rural Cape Girardeau County, the Burfordville Covered Bridge sits beside Bollinger Mill.

Completed in 1868, after a delay during the Civil War, this 140-foot-long structure is the longest of Missouri’s surviving covered bridges. It was a toll bridge until 1906. That’s the year local farmers took matters into their own hands, removed barriers, and started using the bridge as a public road. The bridge remained part of the highway system until the area became a park in the 1960’s.

Today, pedestrians of all shapes and sizes are welcome. They can also visit the adjacent mill and admire the displays of machinery. If lucky, or inquire in advance, you may be treated to a demonstration of turning corn into cornmeal.

In the sweet romance, Morning Tryst, our photographer heroine visited the site multiple times. One planned shoot was delayed, perhaps cancelled. You’ll need to check the book to find out the reason.


Long Name–Short Bridge

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site.

Quick — say it three times without drawing a breath.

Located a short drive south of St. Louis, this one quarter of the remaining covered bridges in Missouri is only 76 feet long. Length, however, does not diminish importance. the bridge was an important link between Hillsboro and St. Louis.

Built in 1872 and restored in 1984, the final year it carried traffic, Sandy Creek Covered Bridge and the surrounding acerage makes an ideal spot for picnics and short hikes.

The sweet romance, Morning Tryst, follows Serena Carter as she photographs State Parks and Historic Sites in all portions of Missouri. Check the details here:


Park in Two Parts

You can’t get there from here. Well, technically that’s a false statement.

However, sometimes an obstacle makes it very difficult, or perhaps time consuming to get from the spot you are standing to the spot you see.

Allow me to show you the “old bridge” across the Meramec River in Missouri’s Route 66 State Park.

To get from this end of the bridge to the other: retrace your route to the Interstate Highway. Drive to the next exit, re-enter freeway going opposite direction and take first exit. Then wind your way under the freeway to part 2 of this unique (for several reasons) state park.

Thinking of the future, when perhaps more than a talented squirrel (or other creature following the below-deck girders, will be able to cross the river at this spot again. Citizens have created an organization with the goal of re-decking this bridge as a bike/walking trail.

In the more immediate future, check out “Morning Tryst” a sweet romance using the backdrop of several Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites.

To pre-order for your Kindle, click here:


Three Bridges — One River

If you begin in St. Louis and intend to drive any great distance (or any moderate distance) you will find it necessary to cross at least one river. Depending on direction and distance, you may cross more than one — or the same river more than once.

Today we’re going to focus on driving southwest from the heart of the city. The first sizable (except during flood) river you will encounter is the Meramec. The first time you cross it on Interstate 44 or a state highway running roughly parallel, the river is flowing south — perhaps a few degrees to the southeast.

Less than ten miles later, Interstate 44 crosses the Meramec River again — where it flows north. Like most rivers, perhaps a little more than average, the river changes direction several times as it wanders from the source to the Mississippi River.

This is a crossing where a steel truss bridge with oak floor planks spanned the water in 1900. In 1932, a new bridge, to carry the traffic for the new US Highway 66 replaced the previous. When the Interstate was construction, a new bridge, a little south (upstream) was completed. The old (second) bridge continued to serve local traffic until 2009. At that time, the decking was removed in an effort to lighten the load on the steel trusses and wait for funds to restore the structure which now lies within a State Park.

A trace of Bridge #1 remains with the pair of footings visible at low water. Bridge #2 — deckless — is in the foreground while Bridge #3 carries the traffic from St. Louis to points southwest such as Rolla and Springfield in Missouri, Tulsa, OK and beyond.


Final Bridge

Numerous bridges span the Mississippi River as it cuts from North to South in the middle of the United States. The bridge below: Crescent City Connection Bridges (a side-by-side pair) is the final bridge. If you need to cross the river, or one of it’s many branches as it winds its way to the Gulf of Mexico, hire a boat.

While this is not exactly a seacoast photo — the water is fresh — the river is wide and the New Orleans waterfront is active with freight and cruise ship traffic.

Disclaimer: I’ve a soft spot in my heart for this river. I envy, but will never, be one of the adventurers in a canoe or small boat to travel the entire length. I have discovered and admire the work of a retired art teacher who some years ago visited and sketched all the bridges. I’ve crossed many and still have more on the “Bucket” list.



Built to Last

Strong wood. Intelligent designer. Capable workmen.

The result is a structure which functioned for well over a century. After a few decades, the makeup of the burden carried changed in character. And grew in both size and weight.

Located in Southern Indiana, this covered bridge served the local residents from 1863 until the final decade of the 20th century. According to the sign above the entrance, it is 150 feet long and cost a total of $5,700 to construct.

I walked it during my visit. Imagine crossing it on horseback, horse-drawn wagon, or bicycle.


Crossing the Creek

The park appeared tiny from the road past the hospital. Aside from a modest parking lot and a little wild area along a small creek there wasn’t much too it.

Well…there was this footbridge. It must lead to something.

So on a fine January day, I parked in the lot and went exploring. I needed the steps for my exercise program. And when weather permits I prefer fresh to mall recycled air.


Step, step, step over the creek. The wooden planks bring the story of the three Billy goats crossing the bridge where the troll lived. (O, that’s an old story which my father told with much expression.)

Asphalt paths wound past ball fields, branched to give a choice on into the woods or loop around on the level past a second parking lot. I took the wooded route and admired the woods at rest. Leaves on the ground. A few patches of brown grass. Rocks exerting authority when the eye is not distracted by busy summer growth. A few birds gathering lunch and calling to friends.

It’s good to take a risk and cross over the bridge to explore.



Crossing the River

When the United States was a young nation, rivers aided travelers and commerce. They were important routes to move people and goods – either raw, natural resources or later on, manufactured products.

As time and technology moved along the rivers became obstacles as well as trails.

Highways could ford a small stream. If it wasn’t running in spring flood. But larger bodies of water needed bridges. Yes, bridges have been built for centuries. Some of the old, stone structures are beautiful as well as practical.

But a new, growing nation needed more and more bridges to move more and more products on railroads and highways. Cities grew along rivers and begged for connection to the other side. Boats and barges using the waterways demanded unimpeded passage.

My hat’s off to the engineers of the bridges in the USA. Working within all sorts of restraints of time, space, and resources they have managed to give us routes, and alternate routes, to pass safely from one side of the river to the other.

Double deck highway bridge across the Ohio River.
Double deck highway bridge across the Ohio River.


Twenty-First Century

She didn’t come easy. (Are bridges female? Like ships?) And she’s in progress, not complete.

Highway and bridge projects require funding. And when they cross state lines they require cooperation through all phases: planning, design, site selection, connections, and actual construction. They talked about it for years. One state proposed a toll bridge. The other adamantly apposed. River shipping has the right-of-way. You can’t put a bridge pier just anywhere.

I first believed it was more than words when I saw some of the early pier work in 2010. Twenty-eight months after that first actual sighting by my own eyes, two graceful towers rise, one near each shore of the Mississippi. Workers continue to install bridge deck and the long cables to support it. For this will be a cable stayed bridge, a design of other, newer bridges across the same river.

When finished, this structure will carry I-70 from the north edge of downtown St. Louis into Illinois. Can you hear the sigh of relief from the Poplar?

Wait for 2014 to cross.
Wait for 2014 to cross.

This concludes our introduction to the bridges of downtown St. Louis.

My apologies. You cannot see this newest addition from the top of the Grand Stairs on the Arch Grounds. Well, maybe with binoculars and a little more height than my modest 5’5″.


Twentieth Century – final third

The Interstate Highway System is intended to tie the major cities of the United States together. In St. Louis this also necessitates crossing the Mississippi River to connect the city with Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, and the rest of the Eastern portion of the country.

They built one bridge. Three interstates — I 70, I 55, and I 64 a.k.a. US 40 — converge in downtown St. Louis and skim across this steel deck girder bridge together.

It bears the official name of Bernard F. Dickman Bridge. Don’t ask for directions using that name. Natives, media traffic reporters, and signage will direct you to the Poplar Street Bridge. Opened in 1967 and located a short distance downstream from the landmark Arch, it carries a constant stream of cars, trucks, and motorcycles to and from the city.

Using the bridge for the first time? Drive across it infrequently?

My tip: Be alert to which of the interstate routes you want to follow. Some of the exits are in front of you before you realize you’re over land, not river.

Poplar Street Bridge viewed from upstream. Low winter water.
Poplar Street Bridge viewed from upstream. Low winter water.